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10 Amazing Quotes From 'I Don't Fit In'
Highlights From Paul Collins' Book About The Nerves & The Beat
There are a handful of shared influences among many of the modern guitar pop bands I interview.
Outside of the big four—The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who, The Byrds—one that I often hear name checked these days is The Nerves. That’s an impressive legacy for a band that only released one 4-song EP during their original run in the mid-’70s.
Of course, those four songs were so mind-blowingly great that they became foundational to the very definition of power pop. (A reputation heightened by the expanded reissues and compilations released in the following decades.)
And it doesn’t hurt that Blondie covered The Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” on their 1978 breakout album, Parallel Lines. Or that members of The Nerves went on to form two other legendary bands, The Plimsouls and The Beat.
The Nerves are best known as a pioneering power pop/punk band featuring Jack Lee (guitar/vocals), Paul Collins (drums/vocals), and Peter Case (bass/vocals).
They originally formed in San Francisco, but moved to Los Angeles where they helped kickstart the local underground music scene. Alas, the scrappy, ambitious trio fizzled out before Blondie made Lee’s “Hanging on the Telephone” a perennial pop favorite.
Lee went on to have a successful songwriting and solo career, while Collins and Case briefly played in The Breakaways. Case then formed The Plimsouls before establishing himself as a respected songwriting troubadour.
Paul Collins formed The Beat and signed a major label record deal, went on world tours, and otherwise lived out his childhood rock and roll fantasies—for a while. He has been a prolific solo artist and elder statesmen of power pop ever since (including a brief, tumultuous reunion with Case in 2012).
All of this is chronicled in Collins’ excellent autobiography, I Don’t Fit In (Hozac Books), co-written with Chuck Nolan.
Now in its third edition, I Don’t Fit In covers: Collins’ globetrotting childhood; his teen fascination with sex, drugs and rock and roll; his time at Juilliard and the move from New York to San Francisco that led to the formation of The Nerves; the band’s self-funded recordings, move to LA and their self-booked U.S./Canadian tour; his brief stint in The Breakaways with Case; the international saga of The Beat; relocating to Europe to become an expat rock star; and, finally, his long solo career.
If you are a fan of power pop, this is a must read. (Seriously, stop what you’re doing right now and go grab a copy. You’ll thank me later.) Collins’ firsthand accounts of these legendary bands alone are worth the price of admission, but it’s his sneering rock and roll tone and unfiltered self-appraisals that really make this book stand out.
Below are 10 of my favorite quotes for the book—a list that could have easily stretched to 30 or 40. It’s that good.
10 Amazing Quotes From I Don’t Fit In
10. Falling In Love With Rock & Roll:
“Thank god for America and all the cars we built. Without them we would have never had the garage: birthplace of all the great music created in my lifetime.”
9. Forming The Nerves With Jack Lee In San Francisco
“I scanned the bulletin board and found the 3” by 5” index card that would change my life forever—‘WANTED: DRUMMER FOR ALL ORIGINAL BAND A LA THE BEATLES AND STONES…CALL JACK.” I ripped it down and stuck it in my back pocket. No one else was going to see this one, it was all mine. I ran immediately across the street to the pay phone and called Jack Lee, who told me to come over. I liked that. When you want to be a rock star, you don’t have a moment to waste.”
8. The Nerves Move From San Francisco To Los Angeles
“Everyone in town knew us, but nobody liked us. We were just too against the grain. We single-handedly booked, presented, and spearheaded LA’s underground punk movement, but we rubbed everyone the wrong way. Let’s face it: the suits didn’t help.”
7. The Nerves’ Self-Booked National Tour
“We were glad to get out of LA. We were relieved to be leaving this city filled with whores, pimps, film stars, rock stars, and managers. There were wannabes, liars, cheaters, hustlers, strippers, punks, dealers, junkies and the one or two nice people that we knew. Fuck LA when you come right down to it. It is a shithole, and it still is today. We refused to let it get us down. We were undaunted, but a good dose of my heart and soul are still stuck to the sidewalks of Sunset Boulevard.”
6. The End Of The Nerves
“If there was any definitive ‘end of The Nerves’ moment, it was actually a few months after the formation of The Breakaways, right after Blondie released their LP Parallel Lines on September 23rd, 1978. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and for the first time, I heard Blondie’s cover of ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ come on the radio. I literally almost wrecked the car. …Jack was a big time guy now. Jack was in the VIP winner’s circle. He was gone and there we were…down in the street.”
5. The Breakaways
“Peter (Case) and I decided to switch to guitar, so we began looking for a rhythm section. I was tired of playing the drums and sold them. From then on I’d think of my life as B.G. (before guitar) and A.G. (after guitar). I bought a Fender Stratocaster for about 60 bucks.”
4. The Beat Signs With CBS/Columbia
“We kind of got the gold star treatment, and everyone treated us ‘very nicely,’ whether they liked us or not. I’d been shit on, pissed on, kicked around, kicked out, abused both emotionally and physically and now we were the toast of the town. Suddenly everyone wanted to be my friend.”
3. The Beat’s Debut Album
“The first album of any good group is a very special time. It was a wonderful, magical experience, and one of the shining moments of my life. All the stars were lined up, and everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t. At that particular moment I was blessed with all the power, strength and reserve that any artist could ask for.”
2. Timing Is Everything…
“With The Nerves, I came to Hollywood too soon, and with The Beat, I stayed too late. I should have arrived the day before I got signed to CBS, and left the day after I finished my first record.”
1. Power Pop
“I guess we first heard the term ‘power pop’ back in The Nerves. The first reaction that I remember was ‘what the fuck is this shit?’ We never thought of ourselves as power pop. We very simply thought of ourselves as a rock ‘n’ roll band. The term power pop sounded kind of wimpy to us, a journalist’s term to separate us from the mainstream.”
“The only outlets were major labels and radio. We were in their world, and they weren’t going to play power pop or punk, so it worked against us. At least punk bands were being written about, but power pop never got that far.”
“It wasn’t until the next generation when power pop stopped being a stigma…”
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Remember The Lightning—A Guitar Pop
A new semi-annual music journal featuring some of today's best music writers on modern guitar pop, and talented modern artists on the music/genres that inspire them.
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Mary E. Donnelly on Sloan
John M. Borack on Juniper
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PLUS: Custom Cover Art By Brian Walsby